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Nas dishes real talk about his career at screening of 'Nas: Time is Illmatic'

Last night Time Inc. chief content officer Norm Pearlstine hosted a screening at the Time-Life building of the new documentary Nas: Time is Illmatic, followed by a conversation between Nas and venture capitalist and unlikely rap fan Ben Horowitz. The film recounts the rapper’s rise to fame with his earth-shaking 1994 debut, Illmatic, from his childhood in Queensbridge through Illmatic‘s runaway success, and examines the ways it still reverberates through hip-hop culture.

After the movie Nas took the stage with Horowitz, where he admitted that he wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the film project at first, but warmed to the idea over time. He also revealed some candid thoughts on stardom (“You never really get used to it, but there are worse things that can happen”), being compared to Walt Whitman (“It kind of goes over my head”), and whether or not he still thinks hip-hop is dead (“The spirit is still alive, but things need to die so new things can take over”).

Nas: Time is Illmatic is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, and Vudu, and it airs tonights at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

10 songs where guest rappers stole the show

Guest verses have always been a part of hip-hop, but they’ve grown in popularity over the years for a number of reasons: they put new talent in people’s ears, they keep established rappers sharp, and they keep the slightly gladiatorial element of competition between performers alive in an era when freestyle battle raps are seen as slightly antiquated. The right featured guest can turn a single into a smash—but it can also backfire if that rapper outshines the song’s main artist. But when that does happen, the results can be pretty magical. Here are 10 notable examples of guest rappers appearing on other rappers’ songs—and completely blowing them away. READ FULL STORY

'Nas: Time is Illmatic' tells the story behind an iconic album

In 1994, a relatively unknown hip-hop artist named Nas released his debut album Illmatic to mediocre sales. Over the next seven years, the album rode a surge of critical acclaim to platinum status in 2001—cementing itself as a landmark in East Coast hip-hop. Twenty years later, Nas is telling fans old and new the story of his creative roots in the documentary Nas: Time is Illmatic, out this week.

Today, the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival opener is in limited release in New York City and Los Angeles.  The doc, directed by One9, is described as “a thrilling account of Nas’ evolution from a young street poet to a visionary MC.” The 71-minute film offers an intimate narrative of the forces in Nas’ early life that shaped him as a music artist—from his childhood in Queensbridge N.Y. to his young adult years on the ’80s hip-hop scene—as well as firsthand insight into the time and place that bore Illmatic. “We knew we couldn’t tell the story of Illmatic without telling the culture around it,” One9 explained to Vice.

Time is Illmatic features interviews with Nas’ biggest influencers, including his brother, the father who left his family, and the producers on Illmatic: Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S., and DJ Premier. The filmmakers (mostly Nas’ friends) also spoke with the people that now count Nas as a profound influencer, like Alicia Keys and Pharrell Williams. Time is Illmatic will screen tomorrow night only in a number of other cities. It will be available for download on iTunes/OnDemand on Friday Oct. 3.


Essence Festival wrap-up: Here's what you missed

Didn’t make it down to New Orleans for the 20th annual Essence Festival? (Essence, like EW, is a Time Inc. publication.) The bad news: You missed out on a Prince concert that may never make it online—at least, not in an officially sanctioned sort of way. The good news: You can catch a few highlights of the fest in the videos below.

We’ll begin backstage with first night headliner Nas:


Nas defends Tarantino's use of n-word in 'Django Unchained'

A lot of people are concerned by the n-wordpalooza in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, by Nas isn’t one of them.

In an interview with MTV, the Life Is Good rapper said that not only did he see and enjoy QT’s latest work, but that he wasn’t fazed at all by the movie’s rampant use of the racial epithet .

“I didn’t see what the big fuss was about,” said Nas. “A movie about slavery and you don’t hear the n-word? Doesn’t make any sense.”

He went on to extol Tarantino’s virtues as a writer-director who doesn’t shy away from the nasty truthiness. “He’s one of the greatest filmmakers of our generation, and we don’t go [to his movies] to see anything less than rawness,” he said. “He’s an artist, and artists have to express themselves.”

And Nas knows a thing or two about artistic expression becoming fodder for controversy: Back in 2007, the veteran rapper made headlines when he titled his ninth album N—–. After much ado, the Def Jam release was ultimately renamed Untitled.

Check out the clip of Nas’ comments to MTV in the video below, and let us know your take on the matter in the comments:


Nas recovering after being hospitalized for vertigo

Nas fans who turned on Live! With Kelly and Michael last week were disappointed to find out that the Life Is Good rapper was absent. But the man has a good reason: vertigo.

Last Friday, Nasir Jones was hospitalized in New York for severe vertigo. The 39-year-old rapper became ill on a flight to New York and was taken directly to the hospital from the airplane, Live! hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan announced on their program.

Nas is now in recovery, and was able to send out the following tweet:

“Peace y’all. I’m out of the ER & doin alright. I’m on bed rest for a few. Apologies to everyone @ Live w/ Kelly & Michael. I’ll make it up.”


Nas and Lauryn Hill announce 'Life Is Good/Black Rage' team-up tour

Good news, fans of Nastradamus and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: The biggest tour of 1999 has finally arrived!

In all seriousness, October 6 marks the kick-off of an historic trek. The “Life Is Good/Black Rage” tour features co-headliners Nas (he of the recently-released tenth solo album Life is Good) and Lauryn Hill (she of the forthcoming single “Black Rage,” multiple horror stories in the new Wyclef memoir, and quite a big tax bill).

Nas kicks the tour off by himself but will be joined by Hill for 10 shows, starting with a stop in Dallas on October 29. The whole thing ends on December 31 with a Nas solo show on New Year’s Even at New York’s legendary Radio City Music Hall.

Of course, perhaps the bigger story here is the fact that Hill is promising a new single. READ FULL STORY

Kelis' wedding dress makes second cameo in Nas' 'Bye Baby' music video

Nas must really love his ex-wife Kelis’ wedding dress. In addition to featuring a piece of the celery-green gown on the cover of his latest album Life Is Good, he gives it a co-starring role his new video for “Bye Baby.”

The track chronicles the demise of his relationship with the R&B star, which Nas blames on her inability to trust him. Despite some angry words (“Hate you so much right now”), he also reminisces on the couples’ happier times.

The rapper also shows scenes of vulnerability, watching home videos of their wedding and looking visibly upset while signing divorce papers.

Watch the video and tell us what do you think of Nas’ sentimental side.

Read more:
Nas’ ‘Life Is Good,’ Ice Cube’s ‘Raw Footage,’ and the burden of aging in hip-hop
Review of ‘Life is Good’
Nas and Amy Winehouse’s ‘Cherry Wine': Hear it here!

Nas' 'Life Is Good,' Ice Cube's 'Raw Footage,' and the burden of aging in hip-hop

When Nasir “Nas” Jones was 20 years old, he released his 1994 debut album Illmatic, rightfully considered one of the finest albums in the history of rap music.

A confluence of factors contributed to its legendary status, including the fact that it came at a time when hip-hop was blasting its way onto pop radio and that, following the huge success of Dr. Dre’s L.A.-centric The Chronic in 1992, there was a general hunger for an East Coast counterpart. (New York obliged with not only Illmatic, but also the Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, and Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).)

But even without any sort of context, Nas’s contribution would still be an all-time great — an album of twisty, brooding narratives delivered with the wisdom of a man twice his age and the skill of a master lyrical craftsman. (It also doesn’t hurt that the production on Illmatic is a delightfully icy mix provided by a team of legends including DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Large Professor.)

Though that album will always (and rightfully) hold its spot in rap history, Nas has spent the subsequent 18 years learning a hard lesson in art (and especially in pop music): Sometimes you have nowhere to go but down. READ FULL STORY

Nas and Amy Winehouse's 'Cherry Wine': Hear it here!

One of the finest moments on Amy Winehouse’s posthumous compilation Lioness: Hidden Treasures was “Like Smoke,” her tag-team with rapper Nas. Now Winehouse returns the favor, as “Cherry Wine,” the pair’s collaboration from Nas’ forthcoming album Life Is Good, just made its way online.

The track was produced by Salaam Remi, who has twiddled the knobs for both stars in the past (he helmed “Made You Look” for Nas and “Tears Dry on Their Own” for Winehouse). It’s another swanky groove bomb that finds Nas tapping into an extra-spry flow he hasn’t commanded in years.

The highlight, however, is Winehouse’s contribution, which is so lovely, powerful, and mysterious that it only drives home just how much the music world lost when Winehouse passed away last year.

Give the song a listen below. The quality isn’t great, but the power of both voices comes through despite the hitches.  READ FULL STORY

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